We describe ‘overwhelm’ as the feeling that you’re just not getting to it, whatever it may be. You’re starting to let people down, you’re letting yourself down and your performance is sub optimal. These frustrations start to flow into emotions that for entrepreneurs and business owners are really dangerous for creative thinking. They effectively kill it.
In my experience overwhelm often rears its head at about three o’clock in the morning. That’s the point where you wake up and then you can’t get back to sleep because all the things you haven’t done, or have to do the next day are on your mind. Sadly, a) you can’t deal with any of it at that point and b) You, know, you’ve got an issue, if you can’t get back to sleep because your mind is just on it.
Take back ownership of your time
The important first step is taking back ownership of the time you have. Usually we have around 17 waking hours a day and it is important to add real structure to this time. We discussed on the Time Management Paradox that a person often has four common roles to play in our lives that we describe as Professional, Personal, Family and Community. They broadly cover work, family, exercise and any other activities you undertake and we all need to find time for each of them. The important thing is to recognise which role you are playing at any time and commit wholeheartedly to being present in that role for as long as it takes to get whatever it is you are doing done.
By slowing down and adding structure, you will start to see a difference.
Focus on one thing at a time
I talk to my team members about this a lot because they feel like we’ve got a lot on and they’re busy; well you can only ever do one thing at once. So when you are doing it, focus on that.
On your list of tasks there will be three or four, maybe five things that have to be done that day. The rest are urgent because of someone else, not because they’re for you. So prioritise your list and focus on the three or four key ones and get those done first. Some days you may not get past the third one, but if that was the level of work you committed to for that day then just getting to the third one and completing it will feel like a win.
Let’s talk about procrastination. It is a real time-killer but business owners procrastinate all the time. It feels like their busy because their fiddling around doing something they shouldn’t, because it’s easier than the tasks they’ve actually got to do. It’s easy to tell yourself you’re busy and therefore don’t have time or are unable to do the jobs you don’t want to do or make the hard decisions you need to make.
Is busy-ness just laziness?
The American coach, Steve Chandler describes busy-ness as laziness. This statement is clearly meant to create a reaction, to make you stop and take notice. Actually, his big point is if you’re busy its because you’re being lazy about clarifying what’s important, what you’re trying to do with your life or your business or what roles you’re playing because you’re not structuring yourself. Uou are lazy because you’re just running around creating havoc. You’re not distinguished of our thoughts and all of that muddledness and confusion is creating lower emotions, procrastination, stress, worry, anxiety and suboptimal performance all because you’re too lazy to bring some clarity to your life.
A positive evolution of busy-ness is productivity. Being busy and being productive are often two very different things. With the right structures and priorities in place, being productive is a state of mind. You can choose to be busy or you can choose to be productive. Get clarity on what a productive day would be, commit to it, add in the necessary structure and you will achieve it. Being productive doesn’t just have to mean at work either, you can productive in your other roles, just by being present in them for long enough.
The feeling of overwhelm comes from a lack of control so take control back. You can’t create more time in your day, but you can learn to partner with time and use it more effectively. Add structure, agree parameters that block out key times and give clear indication of the roles you are playing at a certain time and stick with that role or that job long enough to achieve our priorities.
Ways to defeat overwhelm
- Take back ownership of your time
- Focus on one thing at a time
- Prioritise the really important jobs
- Stop Procrastinating
- Understand the connection between busy-ness and laziness
- Choose productivity